Interview: Jack Antonoff Talks Vic Mensa, “Only One” Cover, New Album & More

BY DAN GARCIA

Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration

Photo by Dan Garcia/The Early Registration

Bonnaroo, more than any other festival of its kind, blends the music and comedy world through its bookings of some of biggest names in both areas. Sometimes the acts are 100% musical, as you don’t hear Billy Joel cracking many jokes in the middle of ‘Piano Man’. Sometimes the acts are nothing but comedy. While Jeff Ross has roasted comedians before, you won’t be hearing him drop any mixtapes in the future (at least I don’t think so). Then finally, sometimes the acts are more in the middle of the two worlds. Childish Gambino’s appearance at Bonnaroo was just about the music, but he still has a successful stand up comedy and television career. Ed Helms is best known for his work on “The Office” and the Hangover series, but he was killing it on the banjo Sunday night. Then you have Jack Antonoff, who isn’t as overtly comical as Ed and Gambino, but who is no stranger to comedy in both his personal and professional life. We met with Jack at Bonnaroo, shortly before he rocked the Tennessee crowd with his indie pop act “Bleachers”, to ask the leading guitarist of “fun.” about the comedy and music worlds, new music, and his forthcoming music festival.

Perhaps most exciting in Antonoff’s life right now isn’t just the music, but his new web series which premiered Tuesday. “Thank You and Sorry” is a candid looked into Jack’s life, which mixes comedic skits and cameos with live performances, all while centering around the Bleachers frontman. We asked Antonoff about the meaning behind it’s “Thank You and Sorry” title. “I thought we were getting kicked out of somewhere, and I kind of always feel like everything is my fault in a weird way, so I said ‘thank you and sorry,'” Antonoff told us. “That very much speaks to my existence, so thankful and so fucking sorry all at once. Both in like a really sweet and arrogant way. It’s just a weird push and pull in my head, and that drives a lot of what I do.”

Blending the lines between comedy and music, Antonoff commented on how the two worlds (music and comedy) come together in ways. “I think there are some similarities. At least just being in music, I know that there is a lot of day-to-day life and touring and making records that is absurd and comedic, and I wanted to show that. But also I wanted to show a lot of the darkness of it. There are a lot of very funny, but super dark, things about what it means to be on tour and be such a slave to your work, where you become very complicated and it’s hard to be there for the ones you love.”

“It can volley really quickly between being really hilarious and really sad, like a lot of comedy can.”

If a new web series wasn’t enough, Antonoff (who just gave a couple performances at Bonnaroo) is starting a music festival of his own. His New Jersey “Shadow of the City” festival will kick off for its inaugural year in September, and he Bonnaroo wasn’t the first festival where he was taking notes, as it’s something Antonoff has been planning for quite some time.

“I’ve been taking notes for ten years on music festivals. I wanted to do it, and I wanted to do it right. I wanted to start small and make something that was really vital and connected to New Jersey as an area and offered more than just the bands playing it, and was specifically curated.”

Antonoff also commented on the consistency (yet growth) of music festivals. “It’s something I believe deeply in, at a time when people are really obsessed with how they are going to download or buy music, I think one thing that isn’t changing is live music and music festivals. They are growing and becoming better and better.” If you get a chance to attend, you will see performances from Antonoff’s Bleachers, Charli XCX, and even Chicago’s own, rapper Vic Mensa (just to name a few).

“Vic (Mensa) is someone I’ve met, I’m friends with, I would love to work with, but I’m just a huge fan of.”

From top to bottom, the festival lineup is one that Antonoff played a direct role in, calling up Mensa to bring hip-hop to the New Jersey festival. “These are artists that I’m huge fans of, that I just tapped into my phone, if I could put together a dream festival these would be the artists, and when I thought of hip-hop, Vic was the first guy that came to mind. He’s amazing, it sounds really ’80s and cheesey, but he is really going places.”

We also asked Antonoff about Vic’s mentor, Kanye West, as the Bleachers performed a great cover of West’s 2015 record ‘Only One’. Despite centering around mortality, Jack flipped the song to put an ever darker spin to the track. “I loved that record, but I always wanted to hear it in like a darker more bruting kind of like “Streets of Philadelphia” feeling,” Antonoff told us. “Sometimes I hear songs and I fall in love with them and I just imagine them different ways and I think that’s the best spirit to do a cover. No one needs to hear a remake of something, it’s kind of cool to change it. This is what I would do if I wrote the song.”

With a full plate of building music festivals, filming web series, and touring you would imagine that there would be no time to record new music. However, fans can rest assured knowing that Antonoff has already started working on his next LP. “I’ve already started to put together the new album in my head. I’m kind of in that fucking around phase when it’s only about experimenting and understanding what the parameters are, and then kind of filling out from there. I’m in my favorite phase but the fuck around phase leads to the get things and really put it together phase.”


 

Don’t miss out on seeing this guy live, his Bleachers will be touring all throughout the country (including some international stop) this summer.

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